Can bolt-action rifles be made any cheaper?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Scout21, Aug 7, 2022.

  1. Scout21

    Scout21 Member

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    It's no secret that manufacturers have been making bolt action rifles, for better or for worse, cheaper and cheaper for a century now. The Remington model 721 was made into the cheaper model 700, which lead to the model 710, then the model 770, for example. Corners were cut at every interval in the name of saving money.

    While overall I think that as consumers we have gained more than we have lost with the offering of inexpensive models, I'm curious how much cheaper manufacturers can safely make these rifles. I was looking at my Ruger American recently and I really don't know how they can make it any cheaper. It has a cheap matte blued finish with no discernable polishing, the stock is as cheap as they likely could have made it, the whole rifle was made up of easy-to-machine cylinders, it has a molded trigger guard, and it uses detachable magazines. I love the rifle for what it is, but as much as Ruger may want to flaunt these attributes as beneficial I know that the rifle was made that way to cut costs.

    I struggle to see how manufacturers will be able to make the next generation of rifles any cheaper.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2022
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  2. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    No doubt manufacturer's are struggling on how to make the next generation of rifles cheaper.

    WW2 was a huge forcing function in making designers consider manufacturing and production. Prior to that war, even after WW1, gun designers barely considered manufacturing complexity and cost, and very expensive rifles made it into military inventory

    A Swiss K31 is a very complicated, very expensive rifle, and the Swiss made it a service rifle in 1931

    WzHtRZt.jpg

    The Garand receiver used high nickel alloys and milled most of the material out of a forging that was larger than a brick. That was a lot of waste. The early alloy was dropped early in WW2 and a low alloy National Emergency steel used, but still a lot of good steel went into the trash after it was milled away from every Garand receiver.

    R8S2eGJ.jpg

    The Germans became very pragmatic, after the War the G3, or HK91 was designed for low skill, low cost, high volume manufacture. The receiver is a stamping, and it is welded together. A welder is easier to train than a machinist. There are few high alloy parts in the design, and the rifle was really designed to be a throw away.


    pktSrUt.jpg

    It takes skilled labor to disassemble and rebuild worn out rifles, and it takes time, resources, and money. The Germans decided it took less resources to crank out new rifles fast, than to collect, inspect, stock parts, and rebuild old rifles. In fact, FW190 engines were designed to be disposable. If the aircraft engine had an issue, instead of having mechanics diagnose, and repair, the whole engine was taken out and dumped. And a new engine installed. The Germans designed the Fw190 to make engine replacement fast. It made sense when pilots and planes lasted only a couple of months, and the 1000 year Reich only lasted to 1945.

    I don't know what the future is with even cheaper firearms design, but the future is being looked at right now. Marketing goes out and makes a best guess at how many rounds are being fired, and how much buyers are willing to pay. And firearms are designed for that.
     
  3. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    Manufacturing technology has made it possible to produce firearms, and most all consumer products, at less cost. That doesn't mean they are any less accurate or reliable. In fact, they are often more reliable and more accurate.

    Your Ruger American has several features that are a better design than a Remington 700. It uses a thicker, stiffer bolt with a shorter lift. The extractor on the Ruger is a much better design as is the trigger. Most traditional rifles are bedded to the stock in such a way that it is important to have a stiff stock to get accuracy. Ruger uses a completely different bedding method, and the cheap flexible stock doesn't affect accuracy. Not having to worry about bedding the stock around an internal magazine also helps Ruger's detachable magazine more accurate.

    All of those features are not only cost cutting designs, but also enhance accuracy. It would be possible to put a Ruger in a nicer stock and spend time giving the metal a highly polished finish, but none of that would enhance accuracy. It would push prices well over $1000 however. Consumers have spoken, most of them would rather have accuracy than shiny finishes. The manufacturers are making what consumers want.

    On the Remington's, the 721/722 actually came 1st. Consumers at the time were shocked at the corners being cut to produce a cheaper rifle. That was the 1st bolt action centerfire to use some of these manufacturing shortcuts

    The 725 was the same design, but with a better stock and better finished. The 700 came about 20 years later and was basically the same design as the 721, but more refined. I would argue that the 700 series cut too many corners even though many of them did use a fancy stock and shiny finish. There are several newer rifle designs that are based on the 700 series, but that improve on the 700's shortcomings.
     
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  4. 12Bravo20

    12Bravo20 Member

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    Here is my take on things as a retired machinist/tool and die maker.

    It is definitely cheaper all the way around to mass produce quality parts using modern CNC machines versus manual machines. Plus the cost of labor is cheaper too. You don't need a journeyman machinist to actually run a CNC machine. Now programming and some setups is a different story and you need qualified and trained people for that. Another advantage of CNC machines is that they are generally quicker versus a manual machine too. This also reduce overall price.

    Manufacturers have figured out that you can use a good bedding block inside a stock made from cheaper materials and still produce an accurate rifle.

    Old school machinists like me are kind of a dying breed outside of small job shops and/or tool and die shops. One doesn't need a journeyman to load material into a machine and then push a start button.
     
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  5. Brian Williams

    Brian Williams Moderator Emeritus

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    As an Industrial Arts teacher, they probably did not toss it in the trash, It is easy to recycle scrap from mill jobs.
     
  6. CoalCrackerAl

    CoalCrackerAl Member

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    I have a 770 in 30.06 . Had it since 2008 or 09. I have shot many rounds through it. It has a 4lb trigger pull. The bolt took a lot of use to brake in. I take out to our club that has a 300 yard range and have fun. For a cheap gun it dose fine.
     
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  7. 12Bravo20

    12Bravo20 Member

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    We always saved and recycled all metal shavings in every shop I ever worked at.
     
  8. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    Well, that’s intensional. If the .gov stepped aside and allowed inexpensive imports from other countries, like everything else, it would be a lot easier to see.

    The amount of machine work, forging, casting, heat treating, balancing, stamping, etc in this little engine is a hell of a lot more work than a bolt gun.

    98774944-3ED9-4DB8-8498-CFB7C40BCAC0.jpeg

    Thats not what your elected officials want though. So we import everything except firearms and ammunition…

    FD2B14FE-F15A-475A-B491-63B191DE6E77.jpeg

    Eliminates inexpensive alternatives as well as competition (that keeps quality up and prices down).
     
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  9. PapaG

    PapaG Member

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    The 788, which was way cheap and panned by the gun writers of the day has been one of the best performing bolt guns ever and selling at outrageous prices today. One of my grail guns is a decent 788 30-30.
     
  10. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Member

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    The only way they will get significantly cheaper as mentioned above is by making them in developing nations with low labor costs. Then you might see a bolt action rifle half the price of the current budget offerings
     
  11. Scout21

    Scout21 Member

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    If it seemed as though I was complaining about the American being cheap it wasn't my intent. I knew what I was buying and knew that I was buying accuracy and functionality, not high polish bluing and a walnut stock.

    I'm not trashing any of the rifles that I mentioned, I'm simply stating that they were undoubtedly made cheaper than their predecessors. I don't think that statement could really be argued against.

    The goal of my post was to get people's opinions on how or if manufacturers are going to be able to make rifles cheaper in the future. Manufacturers are always looking to reduce costs to increase profits and satisfy shareholders and decreasing the cost of the product is an obvious way to do it. I just think that they may have hit the point of diminishing returns.
     
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  12. doubleh

    doubleh Member

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    Agreed and then it reduces our buying power by losing higher paying production jobs. It's a never ending circle. It is like the old story where everyone in the town made their living by doing everyone else's laundry because that was the job available. Doing laundry doesn't pay much.
     
  13. Dave DeLaurant

    Dave DeLaurant Member

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    When thinking of firearms and costs, I look at the Glock. Not a bolt action rifle, but still a modern firearm.

    I don't know the current figures, but I understand that when it was first imported, it was deliberately given a high US retail price point so buyers would be less likely to view its innovative plastic construction features as cheap junk. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the gen one Glock 17 would have still made a profit if the initial US retail price had been cut in half, despite import taxes from Austria. That worked out nicely for Gaston Glock.

    The thing with injection molded polymer parts is that you have to sell units in very large quantity to recoup the initial investment, but after that the running costs for manufacture are low.

    Another smart thing the Glock achieved was complete parts interchangeability. It's not unique in that regard, but zero hand-fitting helps minimize manufacturing labor costs. I doubt you could reduce the manufacturing cost very much by building Glocks in Mexico rather than the USA or Austria.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2022
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  14. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    The "cheap" aspect of the 700 was to use tubular steel for the receiver as opposed to forging a receiver (think pre-'64 Win Model 70). The big issue was the recoil lug and this was solved by having a flat one that was secured by the barrel. Stots were milled into the tube for the trigger group.

    While there are complaints about the extractor, there was a test in which a piece of metal was cut on both ends to be shaped like a cartridge. A bolt mounted Mauser 98 claw extractor and a bolt mounted Rem 700 extractor were placed over the faux cartridge. A tug of war ensued. The Remington won. Remember, if it was this bad, the Rem 700 would not have been used for sniper rifles for such a long time.

    I think the worse part of the 700 design is its safety. While it works, it's just not as secured as a firing pin (actually striker) block one as on the Mauser 98 or Win 70. There are aftermarkets which replace the 700 bolt shroud with a bolt shroud safety, but Rem should have done this to begin with. Instead they keep eating lawsuits.
     
  15. someguy2800

    someguy2800 Member

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    They can and will continue to reduce the cost of manufacture by just outsourcing it to another country. You can order a 250cc dirt bike on Amazon for $1549, and they actually work.
     
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  16. d2wing

    d2wing Member

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    I have a Daisy .22LR rifle that is mostly molded plastic including the barrel with a steel liner. It's a whole new level of cheap. Well not really new. It's from about 1989 or so.
     
  17. BigBlue 94

    BigBlue 94 Member

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    Not to mention a CNC can run all night long with no human supervision. Fill the feeder full of stock and go home. Come back in the morning to a few hundred barrels or whatever. And my goodness the time saved just by the speed at which a CNC can machine. Setup/location takes a couple minutes then the machine does it all. I dont know about you but it takes me a few minutes just to switch to a 45° cut. A cnc takes half a second. One cannot fully appreciate the CNC machine until he is well versed in what it takes to run a manual machine efficiently.

    Im a mere 34 years old but i learned on 8" SB engine lathes from the 50s. Watching a Mazak lathe turn a screw in 14 seconds was so impressive when it took me 30 minutes on a quality gearhead.
     
  18. Dave DeLaurant

    Dave DeLaurant Member

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    The more relevant complaint is that when a riveted Remington extractor breaks, you cannot easily replace it in the field. I have two friends who own Remington rifles with broken riveted extractors. Both rifles have been safe queens for years because replacement isn't DIY. And yeah, both guys are considering having their bolts altered to take Sako or M16 extractors.

    By comparison, I was once at a WWI reenactment where one fellow had the claw of his G98 Mauser extractor (probably 100-year-old wartime production) crack. There was an extra unused Mauser in someone's truck, so I swapped extractors for him using my fingers and Leatherman tool (to squeeze the collar shut) and had the original rifle back in action in about five minutes.

    I'm not claiming one particular extractor design is infinitely better than another but I prefer extractors I can replace myself (assuming I can find parts).
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2022
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  19. d2wing

    d2wing Member

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    Everyone knocks the Remington 700 but the design is genius. Every high end target rifle is with minor variance a clone of the 700 action. I have had several and everyone has been very accurate. Too bad the investment owners of the brand kept making them cheaper instead of better.
     
  20. Mark_Mark
    • Contributing Member

    Mark_Mark Contributing Member

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    didn’t they do that in 1968 by stoping cheap imports from Italy.

    I always say, Follow the corruption Money
     
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  21. westernrover

    westernrover Member

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    Additive manufacturing is going to be cheaper than the machine time, tool wear, and waste (even with recycling) that comes with other processes. Casting is cheaper than forging, but a lower-energy process like injection molding polymer parts is going to be less costly than melting metal. There are still a lot of parts on a bolt-action rifle that don't need to be metal. Really, only the barrel and the tip of the bolt with the lugs needs to be steel. It may be that the existing designs cannot just be translated to plastics or polymers, but I can see a future design where the stock and receiver are a single molded part. The rifle would consist of a steel barrel, polymer receiver/stock/magazine, magazine follower, spring, a polymer bolt assembly with steel boltface/lugs, and a trigger assembly. We're already seeing barrels that are clamped on instead of threaded. Next, they'll be glued in -- I mean, "molded in and secured with an adhesive." It could be less than 20 parts counting little things like the extractor, ejector, firing pin, mainspring, and all the little things in the plastic trigger assembly. Cost would despend on the economy of scale.
     
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  22. Dave DeLaurant

    Dave DeLaurant Member

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    S&W M&P15-22 is already there, albeit as an unlocked breech rimfire. If the goal hadn't included mimicing the AR-15, some components could have been further simplified. Or they could have gone with WWSD-type monolithic polymer lower and deleted the separate grip and buttstock.

    M&P1522.jpg
     
  23. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    This is probably for another thread, but plenty of eyeballs have been lost when SAKO extractors blew out of modified M700's. And when I look at the M16 extractor conversion, I don't see a retention system for them. These extractors line up exactly with the receiver bolt opening, and there is nothing inside to keep the extractor from lifting off. And, breeching the bolt ring with an external extractor provides a path for gas release. And that has blown M700's

    Obviously an extreme kaboom, but the extractor was blown off

    y6tGGOo.jpg

    This is how a complete bolt face ring protects the shooter

    Ikh6loP.jpg

    Somewhere in the 1970’s consumer products became un maintainable. I remember the Chevy Monza V6 of the era, we all laughed because the engine mounts had to loosened, the engine raised, to change spark plugs.

    https://community.cartalk.com/t/1970s-urban-legends-cars-that-required-engine-removal-to-replace-spark-plugs/72015/3

    That Monza was the future. A bud of mine, his 1999 Ford Explorer, several of the spark plugs were inaccessible unless you had a lift, and a special spark plug wrench.

    Back in the 60's and 70's there were a lot of wrench tuners, used to see them in the drive way working on their pickups and cars. Now, hardly ever see anyone working on their car. Changing spark plugs is often a dealership only maintenance procedure. Draining the coolant requires a dealership vacuum. There used to be drain petcocks on the radiator, not any more. (if you can access the lower radiator hose and pull it off, you can drain the coolant.)

    When the weather cools, I am going to replace a heater core on a vehicle. It may take me several days. The seats, the dash, all have to be removed to gain access to the heater core. And the A/C has to be evacuated. The dealership wants $1200 to do the job, because it takes them a lot of time to get in there.

    Have you had an appliance fail, such as a coffee maker, a dish washer, a washing machine? A common fault that occurs around 5 years (or less) is a capacitor failure on a computer board. You cannot replace the computer boards on coffee makers. Computer boards, if they are available, are at least 50% of the cost of a new dish washer or washing machine. Tried to replace the battery on your cell phone? Cell phones are designed to be disposed when the battery die, which is about three years.

    And, people today don’t fix stuff anyway. Something breaks, they go buy a new one.

    I have never done a detail parts strip of my M92 Beretta. If something breaks inside that thing, it looks to be a horrible experience taking all the parts out.

    My Ruger MKII was a horrible experience. I installed a Volquartsen trigger and sear. My advice, lay a white bedsheet on the floor, sit on it, and that way, when the springs for the safety and trigger mechanism go flying, you can find them.

    God bless You Tube!

    Volquartsen Accurizing Kit Install



    So yes, I agree a M700 extractor will be a problem to replace, and they do fail. I suspect that there are even less maintainable designs on the market.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2022
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  24. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    To answer that question, we would have to know a break down of costs. If it’s overhead (expenses not directly attributed to creating a product or service), then it’s not likely.

    That’s why so many manufacturers have shipped production outside the USA. It’s not because they can make the product better, rather make it less expensive for consumers. The “stick it to big businesses” attitude sounds great, until you realize it’s just another tax on us after they raise their prices so their bottom line isn’t altered.

    China doesn’t have a nation wide minimum wage rather a range across the country, $1.57-$3.74 is the range though. Think about how much that alone would reduce operating expenses.

    To put that in perspective let’s say Ruger employs 2,120 people, multiply that by a 40 hour work week, 84,800 hours paid at Connecticut’s $14/hr minimum wage, equals $1.87 million and change. In Beijing (highest minimum wage in China) the cost would be under $318,000, that would be a $870,048 increase in labor costs, a week. Or $42,242,496 a year more than their Chinese counterparts would cost.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2022
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  25. General Geoff

    General Geoff Member

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    Cheaper materials
    Cheaper tooling/manufacturing processes
    Cheaper labor

    Any combination of those three will result in cheaper overall cost

    Cost cutting needn't be bad. Another way to look at cost cutting is improvement of efficiency. If a casting can accomplish exactly the same purpose as forging, well, casting is objectively better because it saves time and cost.

    If you're buying a gun as a tool without any concerns for beauty or arbitrary fit/finish beyond what is necessary to accomplish the task, you can spend a lot less money and still get the job done.
     
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